The Chiricahua Apache, prior to forced displacement, occupied a broad swath of land surrounding the modern nexus of New Mexico, Arizona, Sonora, and Chihuahua. This traditional territory offered a spectrum of natural environments that varied from mountainous regions to desert environments to forested areas. The land provided adequate resources for pursuit of a hunting and gathering lifeway which continued until the major incursions of settlers in the late 1800s. Per anthropologist Morris Opler, the Chiricahua could be classified within the geographical groupings of a Southern Band, Eastern Band, and Central Band, but these groups were unified by a common culture and language, with an internal recognition of their tribal sameness (Opler 1-2).
[...] Wild plants provide the bulk of the Chiricahua diet and thus possess a strong cultural significance. Opler remarks that preoccupation with the growth of wild plants is reflected in the attitude toward the seasons and in the names of the principal time periods. Besides the four seasons, six time periods, beginning with the first signs of spring, divide the year” (Opler 354). These time periods are often given names suggestive of the season's floral condition, such as “Large Fruit” and “Many Leaves” (Opler 355). [...]
[...] With absolutely no evidence of cattle herding among the Apache tribes, the ethnoarchaeologist can validly ascribe the presence of livestock to Chiricahua raiding, warfare, or trade with surrounding communities of agriculturalists and herders. There would thus be an expected correlation in cattle skeleton prevalence and camp site proximity to Mexican settlements. In addition, increases in cattle bone finds would be expected in winter camps, as the winter months were those least rich in readily available resources and when reliance on outside contacts would be most essential. [...]
[...] As noted earlier, both matrilocality and the affinal avoidance behavior (where certain recognized kin relationships require an absolute avoidance of contact) are interesting characteristics of Chiricahua culture, but not revealed in the material remains. The relation of individuals within a camp could be assumed as an extended family (though this relies on generalizations of hunter and gatherer bands, not on direct archaeological support), but relationships between individuals of any one camp to those surrounding it, or to those even further afield, is an unknown. [...]
[...] While these might create another complicating factor in tabulating an accurate group size and in interpreting an appropriate social organization, the nature of these remains offers other cultural insights. The most extensive peripheral site is that of the girl's puberty rite. The rituals and feasts are conducted within specially crafted grounds “outside of the permanent encampments at a level spot in a clearing selected by the family sponsoring the event” (Opler 91). A ceremonial teepee is erected at the site center, with four spruce trees of approximately thirty feet set in accordance with the cardinal directions. [...]
[...] (writing on the Western Apache division), an investigation into the ethnoarchaeological potential of the Chiricahua Apache culture can be undertaken. SITE LAYOUT AND ARCHITECTURE The Chiricahua present a disconcerting situation for the ethnoarchaeologist. While their material culture seems to offer a wealth of prospective data, some of this potential is muted with their site construction and abandonment behaviors. Opler notes that “because these people raid surrounding groups as a regular course, they have reason to fear retaliation and therefore seek to conceal their habitations as much as possible” (Opler 24). [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee